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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7467

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (12:44): At the outset, I will quote from two very timely documents. One is a letter from the Municipal Association of Victoria, indicating that its state council has endorsed this legislation on tobacco plain packaging and calling on all members of this parliament to support it. The other timely document is an article in today's Australian newspaper, citing a survey in relation to strokes in this country and the close correlation of strokes with socioeconomic circumstances. The article states:

PEOPLE living in deprived areas have a 70 per cent higher chance of suffering a stroke than those in wealthy suburbs.

It further notes:

Effective preventative measures in the more deprived areas of the community could substantially reduce rates of stroke.

It connects this socioeconomic reality of stroke prevalence to issues such as diabetes and smoking. It is not the first time that material from The George Institute for Global Health has come forward. Similarly, in the Australian Bureau of Statistics document Cardiovascular Disease in Australia: A Snapshot, 2004-05 we see similar references to the connection between, on the one hand, tobacco smoking, socioeconomic deprivation, uptake of smoking and, on the other hand, these health problems.

The previous speaker, the member for Cowan, put forward the proposition that if you do not ban cigarettes then you are not genuine about trying to do something about prevention. Prohibition of alcohol in the United States may have surrendered the Scotch market from Irish manufacturers to Scottish manufacturers and might have assisted organised crime, but I doubt whether it accomplished very much else. The reality was that it was driven underground and alcohol was available. Quite frankly, I believe that this measure, which follows a series of measures such as increased tobacco taxes, the introduction of smoke-free environments, stricter enforcement on the sale of tobacco to minors, regulations relating to public areas and tobacco-marketing restrictions is the solution.

As I said, the previous speaker joins a series of other coalition speakers who, on the one hand, have come in here and said: 'Yes, we disagree with smoking. It's dreadful and I'm against it. I give lectures in my electorate, and we're now going to go along with the government,' but, on the other hand, have come in here and quibbled about plain packaging. They put forward the proposition that the government cannot be trusted. I would say that we have more reasons to doubt the tobacco industry than this government.

An interesting article from Britain, which appeared in TheGuardian Weekly last week, referred to Robert Proctor, of Stanford University, and his term 'agnotology'. He was referring to the tobacco industry's expenditure on very worthwhile research. The article reads:

"It is less well known, but tobacco companies also spent large amounts subsidising good quality biomedical research in fields such as virology, genetics and immunology. They funded the work of several Nobel prize winners," Proctor says. "But they only encouraged this research to serve as a distraction. The idea was to build up a corpus of work on possible causes of diseases which could be attributed to cigarette-smoking.

In other words, this industry, which has a need to sell cigarettes and tobacco and promote them, seems to be doing this interesting research—left field funding it—with regard to other possibilities for various medical problems. The whole aim of the measure is to put a wealth of information out there so that people then think, 'My problem may not be caused by tobacco smoking.' That article also referred to a famous internal memo issued by the US cigarette manufacturer Brown and Williamson, which bluntly said, 'Doubt is our product'.

A series of people are coming here today, with the proposition that the government is not genuine about this endeavour. I say that most people, on both sides of politics, who have any interest in this field would genuinely seek to undermine the industry. In the case of plain packaging of tobacco products, Freeman, Chapman and Rimmer stated:

While the research body on the effects of plain packaging is small and necessarily experimental, industry candour in internal documents and trade literature shows that tobacco product packaging is seen by the industry to be a persuasive form of advertising. Plain packaging legislation remains an important but curiously under-explored part of comprehensive tobacco control legislation designed to eliminate all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion. Given the near universal appropriation by governments of sometimes substantial parts of tobacco packaging for health warnings, and the failure of any company to ever succeed in finally resisting this appropriation or in being compensated for any loss of trade predicted by the industry, the failure of international tobacco control to advance plain packaging is all the more remarkable.

They further commented:

While the industry promotes an unattainable high standard of proof for research showing that plain packaging would reduce smoking, they do not hold this same high standard with their own position that packaging only effects market share and only serves to encourage brand switching among adults.